An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (removal of waiting period)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session and the 40th Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Christian Ouellet  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Report stage (House), as of Nov. 2, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment removes the waiting period that precedes the commencement of benefits after an interruption of earnings and repeals provisions that refer to that waiting period.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

March 24, 2010 Passed That Bill C-241, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (removal of waiting period), be concurred in at report stage.
April 29, 2009 Tie That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

October 18th, 2010 / 11:55 a.m.
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Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague on his excellent speech on Bill C-395. His own riding has been affected by the lack of legislation in this area.

This is the last speech about this bill. I have only five minutes left to wind up and convince the Conservatives to go forward with this bill. It should have been passed and should be passed, because it is a simple, effective solution to a major flaw in the Employment Insurance Act that prevents workers who lose their jobs as a result of a labour dispute—whether a lockout or a strike—from qualifying for employment insurance.

By refusing to give the royal recommendation to Bill C-395, as it did to Bill C-241, which also proposed measures to support workers by abolishing the waiting period, the minority Conservative government is once again showing that it could not care less about workers who lose their jobs. By refusing to support this bill, this minority Conservative government is once again ignoring the democratic will of this House. Most members want this bill to go forward, but the Conservatives are still turning a deaf ear.

Unfortunately, by blocking Bill C-395 and preventing it from going to the Senate, the Conservative government is turning its back on workers who lose their jobs. Throughout this debate, the Conservatives have put forward bizarre arguments, and I would like to mention one that the parliamentary secretary made here just a few minutes ago. He said in his speech that if this bill were passed, it would affect the negotiating position of workers and employers during lockouts and strikes. This is what it means to him: “Someone is on strike or is locked out, but does not want to find a solution. He does not want to go back to work because he wants to get employment insurance benefits.” Come on. If I am a worker and I am on strike or I am locked out, I do not necessarily want to go on EI. I want to go back to my job at the company and I want to negotiate fair, equitable conditions to keep my job. That is my goal.

The Conservative government's argument does not hold water. As I have said many times, this government does not want to support society's least fortunate. It is not the least bit interested in these people or in the unemployed. The guaranteed income supplement is another example. When the Conservatives were in opposition, they kept urging the Liberal government to increase and improve the guaranteed income supplement and to compensate seniors for having swindled them. They are in power now, but they are not doing anything. They just keep spending astronomical amounts on all sorts of things, from buying planes to giving oil companies tax breaks. What we have here is a small bill designed to help workers, a bill that will cost next to nothing. As my colleague indicated, the Journal de Montréal may be next. Yet we are told that there is no money. There is no money for that, and that is shameful.

If there are any unemployed people in their ridings—surely there are some—government members should think of them. They should think a little instead of constantly investing inordinate amounts to support companies, including banks, that rake in huge profits and use tax shelters. The government helps and supports them. It should also support the workers.

I ask the parliamentary secretary, here in this House, to urge his colleagues in the governing party to vote in favour of providing the royal recommendation to Bill C-395.

Employment InsuranceStatements By Members

May 14th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
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Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak out against the Conservative government's decision not to grant a royal recommendation to the Bloc's Bill C-241, regarding the removal of the waiting period for employment insurance. This legislative measure would have directly helped people who lose their jobs, and would have helped a large number of communities whose economies have been affected by companies shutting down.

By blocking this bill, the government is turning its back on workers who are losing their jobs. Furthermore, it is ignoring the democratic will of the majority of parliamentarians and is completely disregarding a unanimous decision of the Quebec National Assembly. Furthermore, this goes against the wishes of thousands of citizens who signed a petition calling for the waiting period to be abolished.

In spite of this unfortunate decision, I would like to once again thank the 4,000 people who offered their support by signing the petition I circulated in Berthier—Maskinongé.

Employment InsuranceStatements By Members

May 10th, 2010 / 2:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean Saint Vincent de Paul Society held its annual general meeting at the end of April. Almost 120 participants gathered to discuss the problems associated with poverty in our region.

There was a clear consensus. Poverty is still well entrenched and the ongoing forestry crisis continues to claim victims among workers. The participants passed a resolution asking the federal government to speed up the process and shorten the period that the unemployed must wait for their benefits. For seasonal workers, this interminable period can sometimes last up to six weeks because of administrative delays.

As a partial solution to this problem, the Bloc Québécois introduced Bill C-241, which would abolish the unfair two-week waiting period that the Conservative government continues to support.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2010 / 6:05 p.m.
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NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad to join in the debate on an issue that means quite a bit to not only those I represent in Sudbury but Canadians across the country, Bill C-241.

If passed, the bill would put in place something the New Democrats have been calling for, for quite some time: an end to the two-week waiting period before an EI claimant can receive employment insurance benefits.

Let me first discuss why the bill is so important, not just to my riding but Canadians across Canada. As I stated, the bill is important to all Canadians who will be forced to apply for employment insurance, an action that is much too common these days. When workers lose their jobs or are laid off, the absolute last thing they need is a gap in their income.

When Canadians lose their jobs, not only is their usual source of income gone, but also their personal work relationships, daily structures and sense of self-purpose. Unemployment can be, and often is, a shock to the whole system. People can experience some of the same feelings and stresses that one would feel when they were seriously injured, going through a divorce, or mourning the loss of a loved one.

Dealing with the devastating news of losing one's job should not be worsened with a break in income. Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens. Canadians who have lost their jobs, and in many cases their self-worth, must then wait two weeks before they are eligible to receive a stipend from employment insurance, the same insurance they paid into in good faith for the term of their employment.

The waiting period is an unnecessary hardship. Out of work Canadians do not need more adversity when they have just been dealt one of the biggest hardships they will ever experience in their lifetime.

Let me illustrate this point with a local example from my constituency of Sudbury. My riding of Sudbury is familiar with hardship. My community has endured a great deal in the past year. About a year and a half ago, Xstrata laid off 686 workers, months before the three year agreement the government signed under the Investment Canada Act expired. Xstrata is also closing down its copper refinery in Timmins. For its part, Vale Inco laid off over 400 workers. Those who were not laid off, well over 3,000 workers, are about to enter into the 11th month of their strike.

These layoffs and the ongoing strike are also affecting the mining supply and services sector, meaning that 17,000 employees in Sudbury have gone from about 40 hours a week to about 20 hours a week.

The families in my community have endured enough hardship: layoffs, a strike. If we had the ability to do away with one hardship, it would be the two-week waiting period before one qualifies for EI benefits. It would go a long way toward helping these families stay on track.

Thus far, the Conservative government has not been interested in any measures that would help Canadians through these tough times. In fact, the Conservative government has repeatedly let down northern Ontario. This past year, when multinational mining giants Vale Inco and Xstrata violated their agreements with the Canadian government under the Investment Canada Act, the government did nothing. When these companies threw hundreds of workers out on the street contrary to the agreement they signed with the government, the Conservatives failed to act.

Now, as we debate the bill, a bill that would bring immediate relief to those Canadians who are at the front lines of this economic crisis, the government is once again leaving workers and families to fend for themselves. In fact, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development revealed her contempt for the unemployed by stating that EI is too lucrative.

Comments like these are not only downright shameful, but also a window into how the government views the unemployed. I invite the minister and any other member of the Conservative caucus to come to Sudbury and meet some of the people I have: fathers who are worried about their mortgage payments and how they are going to be able to keep up, and single mothers who are resorting to food banks to feed their children. The list can be endless.

The government will argue that it has done enough, more than enough, by tacking on a few weeks of EI. Let us set the record straight. The Conservatives think that if they add five weeks at the end, by that time it is their hope that these people will have found a job. As such, it is their hope that these workers will never benefit from these additional five weeks. What it truly comes down to, for the Conservatives, is that those extra five weeks will be of no cost to the government.

The government seems to have all kinds of money for tax breaks for corporations, except when it comes to the unemployed. This is just plain unacceptable. What makes the government's approach even more inexplicable is the fact that unemployment insurance makes monetary--

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2010 / 6 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I feel concerned by this reminder. Mr. Speaker, the reason I did not rise is that, like you, I saw the relevance of putting the waiting period into the context in which it was set, along with other measures that were also implemented.

In fact, I want to congratulate the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for the relevance of his comments on Bill C-241.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2010 / 5:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is great to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-241. I want to congratulate my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi for bringing the bill this far. We did discuss this before Parliament was prorogued and it was passed at committee. I am hoping this time it will not be such a close vote in order to get it to committee where the member for Chambly—Borduas and I, and others can have a look at it.

There has been a lot of activity, advocacy in particular, on the employment insurance issue over the last little while. Employment insurance at a time of an economic downturn is a particularly important piece of our social infrastructure. The idea of the two-week waiting period has been discussed quite a bit. My colleague from Madawaska—Restigouche has talked about this a lot within our Atlantic and our national caucus. This affects people in his riding in a very significant way.

The idea of even calling it a two-week waiting period is not correct. It really should be called a two-week “out of luck period”, or a two-week “too bad for you period”, or a two-week “no money for the family period”. That may sound funny, but it is a fact of life that many people lose their jobs. Unlike many Canadians, we sit in a very privileged place, do a wonderful job, and members of Parliament work hard, but we are well treated for that work.

Most Canadians really do not live much more than paycheque-to-paycheque. To lose a paycheque all of a sudden and be told at the very least they have to wait two weeks on top of the processing time, which lagged in late 2008 and early 2009, is most unfortunate. So this is a very important piece of our social infrastructure. When people need the money, they need it right away.

There are a number of ways we can improve EI. We have gone through these in the House before. An increase of the benefit percentage is another way of improving EI. We could increase the number of weeks. The government added some weeks in the last budget and then further in the fall added a specific group of people. We could look at what percentage of income people can make while they are on EI. There is a whole host of ways of looking at the difference between re-entrance and regular users of EI, so this is one period that is particularly important.

It is important to understand that there will be a cost. It is hard to identify the cost specifically, but the Library of Parliament indicates that there are three ways that the bill would increase costs. First, periods of unemployment lasting two weeks or less would then become insured. Second, extending the duration of the benefits of some people who find a job before their maximum period ends would impact on this. Third, it would increase costs because benefit deductions are calculated differently during the waiting period than during the other weeks of unemployment. So there is a cost, but we do not know what it is.

HRSDC has given us some different costs. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives supports the elimination of the two-week waiting period. It has suggested a costing of $765 million. We had a cost that was provided by TD Economics which suggested it might be $1 billion. I do not know exactly what the cost is, but the question for us is, is that cost worth it and more importantly, do we need to send a message to the government that at a time of economic difficulty was its response last year enough?

I clearly do not think it was. I want to quote from this year's alternative budget on employment insurance. It states:

The economic crisis, the first since major cuts were made to our EI program in the mid-1990s, has been an extreme “stress test” for Canada’s EI program. The program has failed and needs to be fixed.

There is no question that changes were made to our EI system starting in 1990 when Prime Minister Mulroney made the first changes to EI. That was the point in time in which the government no longer became one of the contributors to the fund. It was then left to employers and employees, and further cuts came later. We were in a time of economic distress where the needs were much different than they were at this economic downturn. Back then the issue was getting rid of the debt. This time the issue was making sure--

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2010 / 5:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, I am going to ask you to read the Standing Orders to the parliamentary secretary, because he is doing what the Conservatives often do, which is to bend the rules of the House to send messages that are false and that do not respect the rules of this place.

The hon. member for Brome—Missisquoi is absolutely right on this point. I am asking that the member opposite deal strictly with Bill C-241. We have done that, and we are going to continue to do so.

For once, could he comply with the rules of this House?

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2010 / 5:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to raise a point of order. The member is starting up again. He is not speaking on topic. He should be talking about Bill C-241 and not another bill that has already been passed.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member would like the hon. parliamentary secretary to talk about Bill C-241. Because it is third reading, the rules on relevance are very strict. The House would appreciate it if the hon. parliamentary secretary would speak about the bill in question.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

I rise on a point of order. I would like the member to have the courage to talk about Bill C-241 and not about what else they are doing. He should be talking about the bill, please.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

April 29th, 2010 / 5:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Christian Ouellet Bloc Brome—Missisquoi, QC

moved that Bill C-241, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (removal of waiting period), be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it goes without saying that this bill must be accepted by the current Conservative government. I begin my remarks with that comment because we have been talking about this for a long time. The two-week waiting period is a critical issue. This is not a minor bill designed to keep senators in the red chamber for a longer or shorter period of time. It is an act that can help all workers who lose their job.

That injustice has been around for too long. I am going to give some numbers. In 1989, 83% of Canadians and Quebeckers were eligible for employment insurance. Now, it is less than 50%.

What did the government do? It passed a law to add five additional weeks at the end of the benefit period. And how many people benefit from this initiative? Currently, it applies to 28% of those who are eligible for EI benefits. However, 28% of 50% does not make for a large number of people. The fact is that few workers are entitled to these five additional weeks.

If the two-week waiting period was waived, all workers who lose their job would benefit. I am not talking about workers who resign or who lose their job because they failed to perform, but about workers who are laid off because their plant shut down, because there are fewer orders in the books, because the plant is relocated, or because of a bankruptcy. These people are laid off through no fault of their own. They are the most affected by these two weeks without benefits.

Waiving the two-week waiting period would have a much greater impact on financial security than the five additional weeks at the end of the benefit period. Indeed, this situation affects the most vulnerable workers in our society. The two-week waiting period is a glaring injustice: these people lose their job through no fault of their own, yet they are penalized. It seems as if the Conservative government likes to punish workers who get laid off. I just cannot understand that.

In Quebec, this situation puts pressure on the Quebec government when these people turn to social assistance. Social costs increase, even though the federal government is responsible for looking after those people who lose their job through no fault of their own.

There is an urgent need for action, but the government does not seem to understand that, and it would appear that the Conservatives are not going to let us get this bill passed. Abolishing the two-week waiting period would not mean extending the employment insurance benefit period. All it would do is allow people to receive their EI benefits two weeks earlier, so that they would not have to go without money for two weeks.

Often, people do not even know they are going to lose their jobs. They get a warning and lose their jobs the same week, because the employer did not want anyone to know in advance. What is more, most of the time, these people do not have any money set aside. They even have debts. Liberalism encouraged people to go into debt in an excess of consumerism.

These people are just like everyone else. Workers also have a culture of borrowing. Then, suddenly, they have no money coming in for two weeks, so they go deeper into debt and they cannot afford to pay the mortgage or rent or feed their families. It is that serious.

If the waiting period were eliminated and the five weeks at the end left intact, the cost to the EI system would not be much more. In any case, only 28% of people receive the five weeks of benefits at the end of the period. Presumably, everyone would receive the two weeks at the start.

These two weeks are a question of dignity for our workers. It is scandalous that people who lose their jobs cannot get help from employment insurance right away.

Does the government want to punish workers for losing their jobs? We have to wonder. We could even say that that is what the government is trying to do. It is trying to punish workers for losing their jobs through no fault of their own. They will have to spend two weeks without benefits.

Generally speaking, the government is not criticized very much. It thinks that, as with every type of insurance, a premium must be paid. However, employment insurance is not a public or private insurance. It is a social measure that should apply to everyone, and people should not be punished unfairly.

Unfortunately, this unfair punishment has been around since 1971, and it is high time to abolish it. The current government should realize that it will not be defeated tomorrow if it eliminates this injustice. On the contrary, we will appreciate it more.

This measure is supported by all Quebeckers and Canadians. Unions, community groups, women's groups, anti-poverty groups, food banks, retailers, all support this measure, except the people that the government consulted. These people include business leaders, economists, banks and probably some hand-picked professors, who are at the source of this neo-liberal ideology.

The Bloc Québécois believes that this bill is necessary. It should be looked on favourably by the government, and I am asking it to reconsider its position.

The House resumed from March 23 consideration of the motion that Bill C-241, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (removal of waiting period), as reported (without amendment) from committee, be concurred in.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-241, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (removal of waiting period), as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

March 23rd, 2010 / 5 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to apologize to my colleagues who may have wanted to ask questions or make comments about the NDP leader's speech.

There have been discussions among all parties and I believe you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, if, during the time provided for private members' business today, a recorded division is demanded on Bill C-241, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (removal of waiting period), that it be deferred to the time provided for oral questions on Wednesday, March 24, 2010.

Opposition Motion—Throne Speech and BudgetBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 16th, 2010 / 12:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Madam Speaker, it is sometimes difficult to find the right word to describe a behaviour. The dictionary provides guidance in that regard. When we use a word, it is recognized by the dictionary.

I am pleased to speak to the Bloc Québécois motion. My colleagues from Joliette and Hochelaga were able to set the debate in context. I would point out, broadly, that this motion stresses how little room the budget gives in relation to a federalist approach to things, how little room it allows for Quebec. It does the same thing in relation to the other regions of Canada, more specifically where the social safety net is concerned.

These are the issues addressed in the motion. Quebec is owed $2.2 billion for harmonizing its sales tax with the GST. As well, no support is being offered for the forestry industry in Quebec equivalent to what is being done in Ontario for the auto industry. We all agree with the support provided for auto industry workers, but where the rub lies is that there is discrimination in the choices made, and that should not be the case.

The aerospace industry in Quebec is also completely ignored in the economic choices made by Canada. I will not talk about environmental issues, because other colleagues have already done that. I am going to focus on the needs of the disadvantaged, who have been completely ignored by the Conservative government and the government that preceded it.

My colleague from Joliette talked about contempt and indifference. In fact, what we are seeing is contempt and indifference toward the most disadvantaged people in our society.

I will give an example. After hearing the Speech from the Throne, we also see that the budget contains nothing for veterans, even though it had been announced that they would receive a monthly pension instead of a lump sum. The budget also contains no provision for the community sector and for seniors.

But the Speech from the Throne announces the creation of days to celebrate having nothing: a holiday from the Prime Minister for veterans; a day to celebrate community organizations, which have suffered unprecedented cuts in the last three years; and a day for seniors, who have had $3.2 billion taken from them. The most disadvantaged, and the ones who are entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, are ignored.

The last two governments hoped to eliminate this debt by attrition. In the budget, the government will recover $228 million because these people die. While the government knows to whom it owes this money, it relies on the fact that these people do not know their rights and keeps the money that belongs to them.

I will talk about the economic crimes committed against seniors and the unemployed.

We have to tell it like it is. We talk about white collar criminals who help themselves to the money their clients have entrusted to them. The present situation is similar. The government helps itself to the money that belongs to seniors and the unemployed. In the last 14 years, the government has siphoned $57 billion from a fund put in place for workers who have lost their jobs. Some say that what is done is done, that the money was used for other things, and that we should forget about it. I say that we should not forget about it and trivialize such repressive measures foisted on the unemployed. What is worse, the Conservative government is preparing to siphon another $19 billion over the next five years. Only employers and workers pay into the employment insurance fund. What the government has done is absolutely revolting, yet every party that has been in power seems to have considered this practice perfectly normal.

I call here for two minutes' reflection. When you give your money to an individual to administer, through investment, insurance or business management and when you need it for your own purposes and the people who administer it tell you they have used it for other purposes, what do you do? You take them to court, because this is misappropriation. Well obviously seniors and the unemployed cannot take the government to court, but the action remains just as reprehensible and unacceptable. Why do we accept the unacceptable? Because the behaviour has become commonplace. It has become commonplace to steal from society's have-nots to fatten the haves, the banks, the oil barons, those who divert money to tax havens, for example. There are tax credits, there are even subsidies for these people paid out of the money collected from ordinary citizens, even from workers who pay money into the EI fund and cannot get it out afterwards. How is it we make it commonplace to steal from the poor to give to the rich? I am choosing my words carefully, because that is just what is going on here.

Of course, some people would remind me that the matter was taken to the Supreme Court, which said that, once it is in the consolidated fund, it becomes a sort of tax. Here again there is a lot of money. We have reached a crossroad where the situation has to be remedied. Steps must be taken. The Bloc has proposed measures to make EI once again available to those entitled to it, including setting eligibility at 360 hours and increasing the benefits to 60% of income. There are measures as well to permanently increase benefit duration to 50 weeks and to remove the stupid measure under which individuals applying for EI benefits are immediately suspected of committing fraud. They must be assumed to be acting in good faith. These are the measures that must be passed here, under Bill C-308 and Bill C-241, among others.